I was always a fan of the Star Wars universe, except for the line “I am your father”. I used to get that a lot in school. *sigh*. As much as I enjoyed the sword play and the Jedi powers, I really loved the epic space battles.
When Fantasy Flight’s X-wing was released I was ready to give it a go, but my schedule meant I’d not get much game time, also I wanted to play fleet level engagements with the capital ships not just dog fights. When Star Wars Armada reached SA earlier this year I really wanted to rush out and grab it, but I was reluctant, if there were no other players then I’d be stuck. I’ve been in that basket before.
I’ve found another keen player and decided to get into the game, now I’m regretting not getting it sooner.
For the TL;DR version click here.
Opening the box
Specs on the box:
I’ve got to say that I don’t like the box itself. It’s big and it’s got a huge insert that takes up a lot of space. On top of that it’s got a hole it in that makes it useless for storage. You can block up the hole but I just threw mine away.
The box is, in typical Fantasy Flight fashion, chock full of stuff. There are ships that you will need to put on to bases. There are dials that need to be fitted together. There are Squadrons that require assembly. A host of tokens need punching out and cards need to be sorted. There are also 2 rule books, dice, a measuring stick and a movement tool.
It might seem daunting but it’s actually not. It’s fun seeing the ships come to life and the Learn to Play rule book takes you through the process of ship assembly, just the bases as the ships are 1 piece. It also contains a beginner setup and play instructions to teach you the basics of the game and then move you on to a more advanced version before unleashing the Rules Reference Guide.
Fantasy Flight, as usual, has produced top notch components. It does capture the feel of kilometre long ships with 1000’s of crew dancing through the void of space and dealing death to their enemies.
It is actually something to see. The highly detailed capital ships always draw attention and with a nice black table cloth, or starry play mat, it looks fantastic.
This is where things can get tricky. There are a fair amount of rules and digging into them, in a single post will make them seem exceedingly complex. If you run through the Learn to Play book and then the Reference guide will make more sense. The books are available as a free download so you can get a taste of what to expect. It’ll be better if you have the models in front of you as a reference point, but that’s not necessary.
Each player will have a fleet of ships belonging to one of the factions from the Star Wars universe. You can also have your ships crewed by famous characters from the Star Wars books and movies which grants them special abilities in the game.
What really makes the game interesting is the manoeuvring. Fantasy Flight has developed a manoeuvring tool which helps to simulate inertia in space. The ships actually feel like they have mass and inertia. Unlike the fighters which can do a shot left at the drop of a hat.
It’s not a bad thing. It reminds me of ice skaters making graceful arcs over frictionless ice. Only they have giant guns and are trying to shoot each other. Nimble little ships can easily get behind the lumbering behemoths and shoot their vulnerable rear shields, but with the right planning you could lay a trap and have a 2nd large ship cut across them and decimate them with superior firepower. Alternatively you can make use of fighter screens to harass the enemy and slowly ping away at the bigger ships.
All of this is managed by a command system. Each ship will have 1 of more command dials. At the start of the turn you set a dial to 1 of 4 commands and then place it, face down, on the ship’s card. Some ships will have a stack of command dials, like the Star Destroyer which has 3 of them. New commands are placed on the bottom of the stack and each turn you execute the top most command for that ship. That means you may actually need to start planning 3 turns ahead!
These commands allow you to do different actions from bolstering your shooting to increasing your ships speed and yaw (turn-in). They can also allow you to issue commands to fighter squadrons or initiate repairs to your ships.
All of this is done so that you can bring your guns to bear. Each ship is divided into 4 hull zones. Front, left, right and rear. Each zone has its own weapon complement. So you will be trying to get your zone with the most weapons to face the enemy.
Each zone will have a selection of weapons which can fire at different ranges. Short range weapons use black dice, medium uses blue and long range is red. These are conveniently marked on your ships card and base. You measure the range to the ship that you are targeting and then chuck the appropriate number of dice at it. There is just something very satisfying about rolling a fist full of dice.
Each hull zone has its own shields. After you roll all of your hits the defending player might have the option to brace for impact (half the damage), evade (make some of your hits miss) or divert the hits to a different hull zone. Trying to hit the same hull zone all the time will quickly reduce its shields to nothing resulting in your turbo lasers blowing holes into the enemy’s hull and generally causing a mess of things. You can also score critical hits which can cause damage to vital systems on the ship or start chain reactions that cause further damage. Deal enough damage to the hull and the ship will be destroyed.
Destroying enemy ships will score you points for that ship. The player with the most points at the end will be the winner. Typically games will have an objective which will allow for extra points to be scored, it’s not easy to destroy an entire fleet so playing for the objectives is very important.
I love this game. It makes me think, a lot. Everything feels very well balanced. The models are fantastic; I think I should find a way to put them on display.
However the box is just a starter box. It’s incomplete and it shows. To have a proper game you will need at least 2 starter sets or to purchase a few more of the expansions ships. That means that this is going to be a very very expensive game to get into. Especially when you see all the ships that Fantasy Flight will be periodically releasing.
It is also a big game. You can expect a full game to last anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours. That does not include setup time. So unless you find a club that plays regularly you might only end up playing a game or 2 a month. I think that’s actually enough play time. If I don’t play that often then I won’t have the urge to buy every single expansion that is released.
Can I braai with this?
That is actually a good idea. It’s really lekker to play a wargame in a nice relaxed environment. Everything follows an ‘I go – you go’ format so it’s easy enough to take a break and go and tend to the fire and then come back. You can also easily play the game with more than 2 players, playing in teams or in a free for all, so it won’t just be the 2 of you.